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MEPs earn in millions in side earnings

Submitted by on 10 Jul 2018 – 15:49

Nearly 60% of MEPs have paid side jobs, with up to 30 parliamentarians earning more from outside jobs than their existing EU salaries, according to a recent study published by the NGO, Transparency International EU.

In total, 751 MEPs have declared 1,366 activities, representing a 13% increase from the beginning of their mandates. 35 MEPs have earned over 100,000 euros on top of their official salaries as MEPs.

Paid outside activities has been particularly prevalent among French MEPs. Taken together they have earned 4.8 million euros since 2014, more than double that of any other country. Belgium takes the top spot in regards the share of its MEPs declaring income (62%) and a single Estonian MEP declares an income of 14 euros over the course of a four-year mandate.

Outside incomes are particularly high among members of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), which has the highest share of its members (54%) declaring paid activities. Notably, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) member Nigel Farage and Front National member Jean-Luc Schaffhauser have both increased their income by over 200,000 euros per year over the course of their mandate.

The ethics system within the European Parliament seems particularly weak in comparison with international best practice. “Moonlighting” — the practice of having a second job — is relatively common among politicians in democracies.

Unlike in the United States, where Members of the US Congress are not allowed to have paid outside activities where a monetary relationship is established, having side jobs — if and when properly declared — is allowed within the European Parliament.

The high incomes are particularly worrisome, as there is hardly any mechanism to trace where the outside revenues are coming from. “Ethics oversight remains weak,” the study says, citing MEPs who have failed to declare trips paid by foreign governments.

Shockingly, the Parliament has no access to tax records and does not even consult publically available information from similar declarations to national authorities. Furthermore, as the report notes, “not a single MEP has been sanctioned for failing to declare income or for making erroneous declarations.”

Commenting on the revelations of the report, European Parliament’s rapporteur on transparency, accountability and integrity, Sven Giegold MEP, said: “The fact that some MEPs earn so much in addition to their daily work is worrying for European democracy. In five years, there were 24 violations of the Code of Conduct for MEPs, but absolutely no sanctions for those violating the rules — this shows that the current self-regulation by the MEPs is not working.”

Adding a word of caution, he noted that “It’s high time for an independent ethics committee to enforce the rules. Parliament’s rules need to be tightened to ensure that MEPs work in the interests of their constituents rather than lobbying their colleagues for money. MEPs must disclose who is employing them, even if they are lawyers.”

In order to strengthen the ethics system ahead of the 2019 European elections, Transparency International EU recommends to swiftly “enforce a ban on lobbying activities for sitting MEPs, improve the information that is provided in the declarations — including on clients and topic areas worked on, improve monitoring of declarations by cross-referencing EP’s declarations with other sources of information and establish an independent body to investigate and sanction violations.”